The Top Ten Questions I’m Asked About Gen Y
© 2011 Jason Ryan Dorsey, The Gen Y Guy®
- What is the correct name for your generation: Gen Y, Generation Y, Millennials, Digital Generation, Net Generation, or something else?
There is no one absolutely “correct” name for my generation, but there are names that are more commonly used than others. In fact, Gen Y has gone by many different names as our generational characteristics become more pronounced. I prefer the term Gen Y because I’ve found people automatically know the demographic I’m referencing is the one born immediately following Gen X. The term Millennials is frequently used in the media, but I find it is often confused with those technically born after Gen Y. When discussing generations the key question to ask is: What birth years are you referring to when you use the term Gen Y or Millennials? Birth years are the key because they indicate the beliefs, values, preferences, and priorities of a population when segmented by age.
- When was Gen Y born?
Based on my extensive research, I define Gen Y as those born from 1977 to 1995*. I reached this conclusion after studying the factors that shape a generation and put those in the context of sequential generational defining moments. However, this range of birth years is widely disputed and there is likely no perfect answer. This is particularly true considering a person can be born five years before or after the stated beginning or ending of a generation and exhibit all or most of the characteristics of the generation before or after their actual birth. In my presentations, I explain why this happens, what shapes a generation, and how generational dynamics affect every aspect of our life.
*I think it is important to note that these dates and the related information on this webpage are based on my work with Gen Y in the United States. When I work overseas, I find that people born during this same birth year range do not necessarily exhibit identical attitudes, beliefs, or expectations as Gen Y in the US. In preparation for international audiences, I always study the factors that shape a generation through the social and cultural lens of the audience’s geographic region.
- How large is Gen Y?
Using the birth year range of 1977-1995, Gen Y consists of approximately 79.8 million people in the US.
- What are Gen Y’s most defining characteristics?
Based on the research for my seminars and upcoming book, here are a few areas where Gen Y contrasts with other generations in the workplace and society:
- Gen Y often has a feeling of entitlement (or at least a belief they shouldn’t have to pay all their dues to get where they want to go). However, keep in mind that while this is a prevalent Gen Y mindset it is not true for everyone in my generation.
- Gen Y loves instant gratification. Gen Y is notorious for not being able to wait in line—especially when getting coffee!
- Gen Y is known for having big expectations. “What do you mean I can’t start as a manager? I was told if I went to college…”
- Gen Y is tech dependent. If you don’t believe me, watch what happens when they lose their cell phone.
- And several other striking characteristics that I explain in my programs along with answering the BIG question: How in the world did Gen Y get this way?
- If you were to tell me one thing about Gen Y that most people don’t know, what would it be?
Gen Y is the only generation in the current workforce that has never expected to work for one company their entire life. In fact, most audiences are shocked when I reveal the actual length of employment that Gen Y thinks equals being a loyal employee.
- Does everyone in Gen Y fit all these characteristics?
No way. Whenever I talk in terms of “generations” I am by default limited to generalities. However, I choose not to look at generations as a box that everyone must fit inside. Instead, I see generations as clues on where to start to effectively lead people of different ages toward a specific outcome.
- Can Gen Y actually become loyal, hard working, reliable employees?
Absolutely! Where companies and organizations struggle is when they solely rely on employment strategies that worked well in the past but are not a fit for Gen Y. While I’ve never observed one company that does everything right when it comes to employing Gen Y, I have observed companies around the country that have solved different pieces of the Gen Y employment puzzle. There are dozens of companies I use as examples in my speeches and upcoming book that provide excellent testimonials that Gen Y has what it takes to become valuable, loyal, high-performing employees.
- Aren’t we catering to Gen Y by helping them with lessons we learned the hard way?
I do not advocate catering to Gen Y. Some other experts use this approach, but to me it only reinforces negative stereotypes and can actually increase the gap between generations. The bottom line is that every new generation that enters the workforce frustrates the ones already there and each generation assumes the one after them has it easier than they did. My approach is to find the common ground between the generations so Gen Y and their three generations of co-workers perform at their highest level.
- What birth years do you use when defining the other three generations?
- Generation X: Born 1965 – 1977
- Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964
- Matures: Born pre-1946
- What will the generation after Gen Y be called?
Not sure. The name given to a generation is usually a reflection of a unifying characteristic. In other words, Baby Boomers were literally born during a time when there was a tremendous increase in the number of births in the US. What I do know is that the generation born after Gen Y will end up frustrating their Gen Y bosses!
© 2011 The Center for Generational Kinetics, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jason Ryan Dorsey, The Gen Y Guy®,
Acclaimed Speaker, Bestselling Author,
Generational Thought Leader